The wendigo legend forms a central part of tales and lore from Amerindian tradition in the forested areas of the Great Lakes in Canada and the northern United States. Despite numerous indigenous cultures inhabiting this region, the legend of the wendigo remains consistent with only two main variations. The majority of tales describe the wendigo is a giant or monstrous human-like creature associated with the harsh winters, insatiable greed, violence, murder and cannibalism.
The wendigo is reported as a giant, often several times the size of an ordinary man or the wendigo can be an evil spirit capable of possessing humans. If possessed, the individual becomes afflicted with traits associated with the wendigo, including, lying, acts of violence, murder or cannibalism.Among the Ojibwa, the wendigo lore is detailed. For example, the wendigo is an evil spirit but takes the form of a giant monster with glowing red eyes, fanged teeth and a lipless mouth. The wendigo consumes anyone who ventures into its territory. Lore states a wendigo is also capable of possessing a human, turning that individual into another wendigo. The afflicted person now enacts the traits associated with the wendigo with cannibalism, often acting without compunction and consuming those once held dear.The common and underlying theme of the wendigo legend is the damned nature of the monster. The wendigo is often described and depicted as both gluttonous but emaciated, suggesting that despite the craving for human flesh, no satiation exists once cannibalism is committed. Doubtless the legend of the wendigo serves as a ghost story and warning fable of times when harsh winters and famine were real concerns and reminding those of the desperation resorted to in acts of cannibalism.